Carmen saw the old man from the Noboru clan obliterate the blood clone within a few dozen seconds, his blade moving incredibly fast and seeming like it could cut anything. She really didn’t want to block that sword directly, that was for sure.

Yet the other person Sven had warned her about was even worse. She had just finished off the last of the blood clones with help from Sylphie, the Judge, and the undead called Casper taking care of the third one. This still meant they had only destroyed three clones, while that Chosen guy had been faced with not only two clones alone but the far more powerful true body of the Monarch.

She was worried as he had quite the firepower and was an archer that this would be problematic. Archers were ranged fighters, and while their agility and perception both tended to be high, their durability often wasn’t up there.

But what she saw when she looked at him again as he had landed in the distance wasn’t what she expected. Two clones attacked him with the Monarch, blood magic flying everywhere, yet he kept dodging and weaving better than any fighter she had ever seen before. It was uncanny to the level of being straight-up ridiculous.

If there was the slightest gap, he was in it the moment it formed; the tiniest opening to escape a pincer attack was chosen, and it didn’t matter what angle the attack came from. He was aware of it and reacted, clearly possessing some skill to give him vision all around him.

Is he specialized in avoidance? she wondered as he somehow ducked and jumped at the same time to avoid two strikes and blasted a mana attack out of his hand to send himself flying back slightly to avoid a red beam from the Monarch.

Carmen wasn’t delusional. She knew she was strong but not the strongest. Yet, she still felt like there was a gap wider than expected. Sure, she could see herself put up a good fight, and with all of her boosting skills, she could deal great damage… but could she even hit him?

Moreover, his constant focus was just too ridiculous. One would think that there was a chance to get distracted or that a wayward thought could sneak in and toss you off for a brief moment, yet such a thing had yet to happen. She herself had many times taken a hit because of a moment of inattentiveness, but that didn’t look to be a concept the Chosen even had to deal with.

He was just a monster.

The Sword Saint drifted through the air as he used a skill to move faster and struck at the Monarch from behind. A clone moved to block his blow, and the old man reacted by simply empowering his blow further. His blade seemed to be surrounded by water for a fraction of a moment as it fell. It warped around the weapon the clone wanted to block with and cut off its arm, and before it could reform its body, the Sword Saint used another skill as his blade flashed, and the clone was cut into six parts.

Another damn monster, Carmen thought, just shaking her head. Yet, she didn’t want to see herself too beaten as she also used a movement skill. Golden wings of light condensed behind her as she sped up and charged straight for the Monarch.

Energy whirled around her as she struck forward, releasing blasts of pure kinetic force. The vampire naturally noticed her and summoned a circular barrier to block her blows, as the Chosen guy also moved to attack – with his blow clearly being prioritized and viewed as the most dangerous.

She didn’t blame him. Poison was nasty.

Shattering the barrier in a few blows, she got in closer. The Monarch was now forced to address her. And address her he did.

He moved his hand as a magic circle appeared beneath him, and before she could react, one appeared beneath her too. Carmen tried to get out of it, but before she knew it, her vision turned entirely black for a moment before she found herself in new surroundings.

Carmen instantly recognized that they had been teleported back in the direction of the Mistless Plains. More than a thousand kilometers passed in a moment. That the Monarch also knew some kind of space magic was something she nor anyone else had expected, and Carmen cursed herself for not having any proper resistance against such attacks.

This was one of her weaknesses… she couldn’t do jackshit against most magical effects due to the way her class and profession worked. Not having any mana did have some downsides.

The Monarch looked her way as she saw him flash a creepy smile. He wants to make me leave before the rest get here?

He didn’t talk or taunt her. He simply attacked, more or less proving her theory. Mist suddenly appeared behind her, as she was too slow to react as she was cut across her back. The Monarch she had just been looking at dissolved into nothingness. Mental magic?

She twisted around to block and found herself faced with three identical Monarchs. All of them gave off power, and when they attacked, she had to block all of them. That is when she noticed they were all “real” to some extent. More clones.

The clones were usually just red… but these weren’t, and without spending a long time, she couldn’t tell the difference.

It would take the others several minutes to arrive at a minimum, and it didn’t look like the Monarch wanted to give her that long. All of the clones began burning with energy as they charged her. Carmen blocked what she could, but it was a losing battle as she was pushed back and took several severe wounds that would be lethal to a pre-system human.


Originally, the fight did seem to extend into more of a marathon than a sprint… but she couldn’t afford to keep a steady pace as things were.

Carmen smashed her fists together and released a shockwave as she at the same time jumped back. When she landed, she pressed both her fists to the ground as she spoke.

“Sacred Battlefield.”

A faint pulse went through the terrain as the battlefield was established, and she felt herself grow stronger. But this was far from enough… so she went all out.

“Regalia of the Fallen.”

“Runes of the Valkyrie.”

“Exaltation of Valhal.”

“Blessed Echo.”

“Ruinous Drive.”

Golden armor covered her body as she began burning from the inside. Runes covered her skin, as she was blessed with power far above what she could usually handle. Skills from both her profession and class working in tandem, making her far more powerful for a short amount of time. The entire summoning process of all the skills didn’t even take a second, and by the time the Monarch reached her, the clash was far more even.

On her battlefield, the masking of the clones faltered as she saw the real Monarch. Her fist clashed with the blade of the Monarch, and this time she didn’t lose out. An explosion rocked the area as the two separated, but Carmen charged again as she pressed the assault.

Usually, it would seem smarter to be defensive, but when Carmen was in this state, she had to fight. Her entire power burned with stamina, and her health depleted by the second, and her only way to remain stable was to both release the energy and lifesteal through dealing damage to her foe.

Carmen attacked the Monarch, who met her blow for blow. She gritted her teeth as her hits were blocked every time, but at least she managed to release her pent-up stamina. She pushed more and got in closer as she began trading hits. Her fist connected with the flesh of the vampire, and she felt her energy intrude and pulse through his body as she herself got some health back.

“Truly a warrior of Valhal… Impressive,” the Monarch said, as he jumped back and pointed towards her to release beams of blood energy. Her golden armor blocked the blows as she stormed forth again. The clones attacked her still, but they had trouble breaking through her armor and outmatching her self-healing, meaning she could keep it up for now.

But not for long.

The Monarch was clearly aware of her powers, yet he kept fighting her in melee. For now, she actually had the upper hand, but she felt herself slowly begin to run out of fumes. She had to do something and quickly. The others were coming. She just had to hold on.

Carmen pulled out as much power as she could as she charged for the umpteen time. Her fist glowed with energy as she smashed it forward. The Monarch smiled and turned to mist at that very moment, but Carmen had expected it.

“Honor’s Call.”

Instead of teleporting away, the Monarch appeared right in front of her, compelled by some unknown concept Carmen didn’t understand herself. It appeared that the Monarch did, but understanding and being able to counter something wasn’t the same.

“Fist of Ragnarok.”

Space imploded as her fist struck the blocking blade of the Monarch. The crystal sword shattered into thousands of pieces as the energy from her fist penetrated through the stomach of the vampire and released a massive shockwave as her energy invaded the body of her foe. Her physical fist failed to penetrate, however.

Right as she had finished her blow, her entire arm up to the shoulder exploded in a mix of golden energy and blood. Golden veins spread from her shoulder and down her body as she watched the Monarch be blasted back several kilometers and into a hill that now found itself with a newly-made cave.

Carmen quickly used her other hand and took out a special potion she had one of the alchemists of Valhal prepare. It had a golden liquid within that made the energy that ravaged her insides subside. She would be able to regenerate her arm again in only a-

“You know, this reminds me of a fight I once had.”

She hadn’t seen him. The Monarch suddenly stood right behind her, the wound still on his body with her energy also pulsing through his body. Yet he smiled.

Carmen tried to get away, but her skills were weakening. She only managed to get a few meters away before the Monarch attacked, not giving her any time. Raising her remaining arm, she tried to block, but the vampire didn’t let up. Claws tore into her flesh, it not healing as it should.

“I would recommend leaving this system event,” the Monarch said as he blasted her with blood energy. She summoned whatever energy she could muster to block it, but all that did was create another opening. The claw of the vampire flew forward and closed around her neck, Carmen focusing all her energy on strengthening it.

Dark energy spread in her body as she felt her limbs become limp. She knew it was a curse and that she had no way to fight it. Carmen cursed both the curse and herself as she resigned herself and activated the Hunter’s Insig-

And then she was free. The claw on her neck suddenly let go, and she opened her eyes to see the Monarch gone from where he had been as he was flying into the distance - an arrow stuck in the side of his head.

A millisecond later, she saw a figure pass by surrounded by a mix of green energy she recognized as Sylphie’s mixing with pure burned stamina. A crude and wholly inefficient method of boosting the body… but clearly enough. The archer had only appeared before her in a brief flash before he stepped down again and appeared right in front of the vampire, which he proceeded to kick in the head, embedding the arrow further.

She had to admit… that was very satisfying.

Jake had to admit that he was kind of miffed. He had baited the vampire so far away, wanting to fight him. Yet the fucker had just teleported himself and Carmen away like an absolute asshole, leaving him and everyone else hanging. A serious dickmove, in his opinion.

His Mark of the Avaricious Hunter at least told him where they had gone, and he noticed it was quite the distance. To make it worse, four wayward globes of blood from earlier suddenly transformed into blood clones to get in their way. Jake knew he couldn’t stay behind and exchanged a look with the Sword Saint, who nodded.

He also sent the message to Sylphie. While Sylphie was faster than him in a sprint, then there was simply too far to Carmen, and he let her know this. She seemed worried, so she did what she could. She used some magic as she flapped her wings, and Jake felt a green aura envelop him as the wind around him seemed to give away and even support him. It was like his old bow enchant, except way more potent.

“I’m off!” Jake yelled as he sprinted – only a few seconds having passed since she was teleported away.

Jake used One Step Mile faster than ever before as he pushed Limit Break to 20%. He flashed across the rather flat ground of Yalsten, and he even felt how it was easier to travel here than anywhere else. Space was more fragile and bent more than before.

The wind carried him forward, too, making it all easier and faster. The terrain passed him by in flashes, and within only a handful of minutes, he was close. It didn’t take much longer before he felt like he was close enough. He took a step that sent him slightly airborne as he drew his bow. While still in the air, he drew his bow, nocked a stable arcane arrow, and as time slowed down, he charged the Arcane Powershot, his vision amplified just enough to see the head of the Monarch far in the distance.

An explosion ravaged the area around him, but he had barely released the string till he took another step – the just-fired arrow passing over his head just as he landed. He kept running and squinted as he saw the Monarch far in the distance. He was holding Carmen by the neck, and Jake reacted.

Gaze of the Apex Hunter activated as the Monarch froze. The boss vampire was frozen just long enough for his arrow to pierce into the side of the vampire’s head and blast the vampire away. With another five steps, he appeared right beside Carmen, who was falling limp to the ground, and two steps more placed him right in front of the Monarch, which he proceeded to kick in the head, making the arrow pierce through and out the other side – straight through the brain.

No way he thought it would be lethal… but it had to hurt like hell, didn’t it? Besides, poison on the brain was never fun.

Jake wasn’t done yet either. He drew his scimitar and cut at the Monarch a few times, it having been soaked in his own blood to poison the boss.

To his credit, the Monarch reacted fast. He used one hand to blast at Jake and the other to pull out the arrow in a pained groan. Jake dodged the blast by using another One Step Mile and appeared right behind the vampire and tried to cut his head off. His scimitar was sadly blocked as he failed to sever the spine, it having been magically reinforced.

Finally, the Monarch managed to get him off as he grasped the blade and used it to make Jake choose against losing the weapon or be thrown off – he chose the latter. Jake flew in the direction of Carmen and used one Step Mile as he went over to her, as he didn’t want to give the vampire any chance to finish her off.

He looked at her form as she kneeled and breathed heavily, her entire body weak. She tried to stand back up, but her legs wobbled, and she fell to the ground, her eyes barely open as she tried to stay conscious.

“I believe that is one opponent down,” the Monarch said as Carmen lay unmoving due to the curse, now truly forcing Jake to relocate her to relative safety.

A note from Zogarth

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